It is a sad day for Florida voters and patients alike as the bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state has gone down in defeat. Even though 58 percent of voters approved the measure, the initiative required 60 percent because it was a constitutional amendment. It looks like Florida’s $5 billion medical marijuana market won’t be opening up any time soon, much to the chagrin of anxious investors.
With such wide support, many are left wondering why it failed and what this means for Florida. There were many individuals that were worried that the northwest region of Florida would be the cause of Amendment 2 failing, but that is not what we are seeing when looking at the results county by county. Out of the 15 counties that got more No than Yes votes, 13 were in central and south Florida and only two were in the conservative northwest.
Polls leading up to the race showed similar results. Leading up to the election, southwest Florida was polling at 46 percent approval and it seems like those number did not improve too much. One of the possible reasons why Amendment 2 did not do well in south and central Florida is the population of the elderly. More seniors live in south and central Florida, they vote more than young people, they are easier to mislead, and they typically do not approve of marijuana. It was a perfect storm for failure.
Of course, another reason Amendment 2 failed is through the efforts of the Vote No on 2 campaign. Backed by out-of-state billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the Vote No on 2 coalition spent $6 million on the campaign, compared to the Yes crowd’s $4 million. The truth may set you free, but money makes the world turn. Simply put, they just had more money and resources.
There is one last reason why Amendment 2 failed. Amendment 2 failed because it was a constitutional amendment. It is hard to get 60 percent of the vote for any measure, much less something as controversial as medical marijuana. It was foolish to have it on the ballot as an amendment, and the Vote Yes on 2 advocates should have known that. If there is any primary culprit for this electoral defeat, it is that.
However, all is not lost for the majority of Floridians that voted for Amendment 2. Let us get past the defeat and have a little perspective; 58 percent of voters approved Amendment 2. Do you know who did not get 58 percent of the vote? Newly re-elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott; he got 48 percent. If medical marijuana had run for governor, this would have been a landslide election.
There is clearly a desire for medical marijuana in the state. There are verifiable election numbers that prove most Floridians want medical marijuana and it is time to push that narrative. We do not have to wait until 2016 to pass this legislation. It is time to push the Florida legislature to do the right thing by Florida patients and pass medical marijuana.
A positive point from this election is that Florida was able to deflect a lot of prohibitionist attention, allowing D.C., Oregon and Alaska to legalize marijuana without a fuss. Florida was kind enough to take a hit for the team, allowing the industry to walk away with three out of four electoral victories. There are certainly others out there that would have killed for those results.
Today’s investment opportunity may be lost, but tomorrow’s is still there waiting for you. In the coming days, months, and years there will be more legislative and electoral battles to fight; and don’t expect Florida to make the same mistake twice. The fight may not be over, but we are on the winning side.